History student cycles 100km back to Cambridge to fundraise for a diabetes charity

‘I couldn’t even ride a bike till the end of first year’

On 28th September, Christ’s History finalist John Broomfield set off on a 100km, one-day (!) cycle back to Cambridge for the start of Michaelmas term. This impressive feat was accomplished with the aim of raising money for the diabetes research charity, JDRF.

At the time of writing, John has raised £325 and is hoping to continue accepting donations towards JDRF’s £45,000 target for their ‘Cycle for a Cure’ campaign. The charity is committed to eradicating Type 1 diabetes by improving treatments and funding world-class research to prevent and cure the condition.

The Cambridge Tab spoke to a very exhausted John, to find out what went through the mind of this Tour-de-Cambridge champion as he went on his merry way:

From London to Cambridge

Although John hails from “The Garden of England”, the true home of antique shops and car boot sales  (otherwise known as Kent) he decided to set off from gloomy London, to add a bit of variety to the trip. “I set off from Charing Cross, aiming to head north via the stunningly mediocre London cycle infrastructure, and then through the Lea Canal Towpath before blasting through the surprisingly rolling landscape of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. I wanted a good balance of traffic-free paths, like the canal, and a fast, scenic second half.”

Why couldn’t the bike stand up by itself? It was two tyre-d

“The last part of the journey through Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire was the most demanding – long exposed stretches with a headwind; short, sharp ascents and descents; and a weird amount of gridlocked traffic in the picturesque villages. It was a big morale boost when I got into Cambridgeshire, and as the sun was setting and the clouds were gathering, the huge new developments south of Cambridge looked even more titanically depressing than Christ’s Typewriter” (a truly unique, brutalist student accommodation block, famously listed as one of the ugliest in the UK).

“JDRF seemed like the natural choice”

John has taken part in the ‘Cycle for a Cure’ fundraiser as someone dealing with type 1 diabetes himself, who has personally benefitted from research and technological advancements that such charities produce.

“I became familiar with JDRF because they ran events at the hospital I was attached to. I found it easy to conceive of the palpable impact that the research they fund can have. It really does seem like the ‘world without Type 1 Diabetes’ that JDRF is working towards is more possible by the day, if they can get the funding they need.”

“These big leaps are possible, but they need money, and for people to care about them. Also, more and more people, especially children under five, are being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes each year, a figure likely to rise even more given the worrying autoimmune effects of COVID-19.”

The number of children under five with type 1 diabetes has risen by five percent in the last twenty years, and overall incidence is rising by about four percent every year. The charity is building online communities to support newly diagnosed children and adults and issuing advice about managing diabetes during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“I couldn’t even ride a bike till the end of first year”

Everyone loves a man in Lycra 

Though John certainly looks like a pro in his very fetching cycling gear, he revealed that he only learnt how to properly ride a bike in the Easter term of his first year. As the start of his final year grew nearer and nearer, he began training for a marathon journey that would put everyone who complains about the long cycle to Girton to shame.

Using a combination of “friendly” competitions on Strava and round trips to visit friends IRL over summer, John eventually built up the nerve to go all the way to Cambridge, just in time for the start of term. He’s also mentioned that, unfortunately, he’ll need to do another quick trip home to bring all his stuff up, which of course was not going to fit on the bike!

John even tells us that his cycling adventures are set to get bigger and better: “I’m currently thinking of circumnavigating the 1,322km ring road in Iceland by bike over two weeks next summer, despite thinking how stupid that idea was several times during the cycle to Cambridge! Hopefully, I can rope in some aerobically inclined friends to share the notoriously brutal winds.”

We wish you the best, John!

You can donate to John’s fundraising page, here, or give directly to JDRF, here

All image credits to John Broomfield